Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie Brim View Post
Would starting with a 5x7 variable contrast paper be okay? I'm wanting to save some funds on the paper and a 250 sheet box is $30 at Freestyle. That should be enough to learn on.
One point to consider: You can cut down larger sizes to make smaller sizes, but you can't combine smaller sizes to make larger sheets. (Well, not seamlessly, anyhow.) The only 250-sheet box of 5x7 paper I see for ~$30 at Freestyle is their Arista.EDU Ultra (really rebranded Foma paper), which is fine for learning; but consider that a 100-sheet box of 8x10 Arista.EDU Ultra is $26. The 5x7 works out to $0.12/sheet. Cutting each 8x10 sheet into two 5x7 sheets and one 1x10 strip works out to $0.13 per 5x7 sheet (if you value the 1x10 strips at $0), so it's very slightly more expensive if you want to print mostly 5x7s, but you'll gain the ability to print 8x10s, as well as the ability to print 4x6 and some other small sizes with less waste than would be the case with 5x7 sheets. The 1x10 strips also do have some value, particularly if you print at 8x10 or cut them down to 1x5 strips; you can use them to help judge exposure without wasting a whole sheet. That said, I don't want to seem like an 8x10 "cheerleader;" I just want to point out the option of cutting down bigger sheets.

As a beginner, should I go with Dektol? Are there any good liquid concentrate developers for beginners? Being pregnant, I'd like to avoid powders as much as possible for the next four months, but I can always have Adam mix it up for me.
Dektol is popular, and when you're learning, there's something to be said for that. Given your health/toxicity concerns, though, you might want to consider Silvergrain Tektol or Agfa Neutol Plus, (but not Neutol WA or other Neutol varieties, which are entirely different from Neutol Plus). Both Tektol and Neutol Plus are based on phenidone (P) and ascorbic acid (C) rather than metol (M) and hydroquinone (Q). MQ developers are popular, but P and C are generally considered less toxic than M and Q. (I'm not sure why Freestyle has Neutol Plus listed as an ORMD item.) You could check the MSDSes for all three developers. Both Neutol Plus and Tektol ship as liquids, so there are no concerns about airborne powders. Unfortunately, AFAIK Tektol isn't available from anywhere but Digital Truth, so you won't be able to order it along with your paper from Freestyle. Note that I've never used Neutol Plus, although I have used both varieties of Tektol, as well as the mix-it-yourself DS-14, which is an earlier version of Tektol. With Arista.EDU Ultra, I find that Tektol/DS-14 produces results that are very hard to distinguish from Dektol.

Also, since I'm pregnant, I'm more worried about exposure. Probably more than I have to be, but I want to be cautious. I'm thinking of having Adam help me by doing the actual developing of the prints with me just standing and watching him. We'll be in a well ventilated area so I'm not worried about that, but getting any chemical on my skin is something I don't want to do.
As others have said, both gloves and tongs can be useful in this respect. I suppose you could add a lab coat (or dark clothing stand-in), particularly if you're wearing short sleeves.